Last week I had the pleasure of attending a 3 hour workshop on Botanical Illustration with the Yurt Academy.
Honestly I was a bit nervous before I went, partly because I've never attempted a formal illustration class, though I've done a fair amount of life drawing. Also, botanical illustration is no joke! If you can picture a traditional botanical illustration, you know it's super detailed, highly realistic in most cases, and very delicate almost painstaking work.
Whilst I've always been a fan of detailed work, I'm not exactly the most patient when it comes to art - so never really got far with more detailed, delicate stuff.
So with my insecurities aside, I went along anyway.
Another thing that added to my nerves was our teacher, or Yurt Keeper - Cherry Denman, who is a proper real-life, full-time illustrator - who's published books and worked on a book for one of my favourite TV shows, Q.I.
The idea of embarrassing myself in front of her wasn't too appealing, but fortunately for me she was a lovely woman with a great sense of humour, super encouraging to all of us, and a damn good teacher in my opinion.
We started the class with some simple (in theory) drawing exercises. The idea here was to show us the importance of looking. Trying to draw a bicycle from memory will do that for you.
Then we practised our pencil control - drawing cones, spheres, tubes, practising pencil pressure and shading - the lot.
It reminded me that no matter how long we've been drawing for, there's nothing like going back to the basics and getting warmed up again for taking your work to the next level.
OK so then we got onto our 'work of art'...
I selected a nice leaf, the name of which I've of course forgotten... it looked a bit like a fig leaf (to me) - anyway, if you can identify it - please let me know!
We started by drawing, which was my favourite part. Actually painting it was another matter, but I was pleasantly surprised by the end result.
Cherry came around to each of us regularly to give us pointers and encouragement. The whole group seemed to be enjoying it, but I might have been projecting my own enjoyment onto the room - I had that much to go around.
I mean, when do we ever get a chance to sit down and really draw, or paint? Unless it's your job, but even then - you're making art on behalf of someone else. There's a point to it.
This felt much more like art for art's sake. Like what ladies of leisure would do in Victorian times. It was also nice to do it with others - to laugh about our mistakes and egg each other on.
If you can't tell, I had a very nice time. I definitely wasn't in my comfort zone to begin with, but by the end I had decided that I was going to take on Botanical Illustration as my next hobby... not that I need another one, but hey - it's good to have back up plans.
The perfect balance of challenge, pleasure and reward. I would highly recommend going to a similar art class if you have any local options, or even checking out some of the workshops offered by the Yurt Academy if you're in the UK.
Oh and if any of you are botanical illustrators, get in touch and send me a link to your work! I'd love to learn more about this beautiful art form.
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about introversion is that we are all shy, quiet and social recluses. It’s just not true!
In fact, both introverts AND extroverts can be shy - it really all depends on other social factors and life experiences.
In short, introversion/extroversion is more to do with where you get your energy from. Introverts tend to get their energy recharged by spending time alone, whereas extroverts tend to get their energy from being around people and interacting with others.
OK - with that cleared up, I’d like to move onto another myth - and this is one that I’ve held in the past - clung onto it, in fact.
And that is: that if you’re an introvert, you’re better off doing as much as you can alone. I took this energy from spending time alone thing SERIOUSLY.
Five years ago I quit my job as a web designer in a busy little London agency in order to go freelance. I wanted to work for me, myself and I. The less people I had to deal with - the better.
I was also under the impression that I would get clients and commissions purely from people finding me online, through my fancy website.
I sat back, and waited for the jobs to come in.
And before long… I started to panic. It turns out, my theory of just attracting clients through my website was not going to fly. I actually had to go out there and meet other people. Yikes.
Now, I don’t know about you but I am pretty allergic to networking. A bunch of strangers standing around, pushing business cards in each others face, totally bored and uninterested - most people just desperate to get a new lead. Pretty gross.
This creates a bit of a dilemma, if you’re an introvert trying to build a business or go self employed. If the one thing you need is people - connections, recommendations, referrals - but you only have so much energy for these networking events - what do you do?
I struggled with this for quite a while until I - accidentally - realised there were other ways to meet people, connect on an authentic level and actually get a lot of new business. All without having to play ‘extrovert’ or be something you’re not.
Now, I’d love to share with you the three discoveries I made in my years of experimentation. These are the discoveries that led to me ultimately being booked out, collaborating with people who are top of their game, and doing things that I couldn’t have fathomed doing alone - like co-hosting Wildfire Women, a live event for ambitious, creative women coming up this October.
Ok so without further ado… let me share the first of these three discoveries:
I grew up thinking that community was something for people who lived in small villages, not for someone who grew up in London suburbs. In the same way, I assumed that as a small business owner, I could do everything myself.
I assumed that as an introvert, I was better off alone, and that anyone doing the same work as me was competition. This mindset is a scarcity mindset. It assumes there isn’t enough of the pie to go around.
Not only is this totally untrue - it is actually harmful to hold this belief. It prevents you from getting the support that emotionally we ALL need, regardless of whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.
Having a community of like minds who you can meet for coffee, co-work with, bounce ideas off, get questions answered and get encouraging words of support is so, so vital - especially if you’re attempting to build a business or take on a big project.
And I’ve found that the more you cultivate a community, the more opportunities arise - the pie starts to expand, not get gobbled up.
When I moved to Brighton, I didn’t go to intimidating networking events - I went to Meetup groups - if you’re familiar with Meetup.com you might know there are tonnes to choose from - something for everyone.
And if there isn’t one that suits you? Start one! I started my own creative meetup group and before long, I had formed solid friendships, gained clients and contacts and I did it all in a way that felt suited to my introverted tendencies.
So, have a think about how you might be able to join in in your local community - it might be yoga classes, mum’s coffee mornings, creative writing groups - have a look around and give it a try. I promise they’re much nicer than most formal networking groups and you never know what might come from it.
Ok next up, discovery two is…
Something else that came out of my dabbling in community is collaboration. This is the combined effort of two or more people, for a mutually beneficial cause.
Again, my introversion made me very skeptical about collaboration - i figured if you want something done right, you’ve got o do it all by yourself.
How wrong I was. For one, I was missing the fact that I didn’t have all the skills required to do many of the big dream projects on my bucketlist, like create a live event.
I so badly wanted to create an event that was introvert friendly, that inspired us without leaving us feeling slightly depressed because the speakers were so perfect and so different from us that we can’t possibly soar to their levels of success. I wanted an event where I would feel welcomed, comfortable and included. I wanted to be able to talk to the speakers, learn from them and ask questions and walk away feeling ready and raring to take action, and make my wildest dreams happen.
Oh - but I knew doing this alone would never happen. I needed an extrovert, someone with a very different skillset to mine, and someone I could get on with and giggle with even when things got tough.
Amazingly, I did find this person, Thea Anderson - who you heard from on this episode of the podcast, but I would never have found Thea had I not been open to community and collaboration.
I had to let go of my control as a self-sufficient introverted solopreneur, and be open to sharing the workload, and admitting where I needed help.
The result was hosting a phenomenal live event last year that was everything we had dreamed of, and coming back this year once again to level up even more, at this year’s Wildfire Women.
Where in your life can you share the load? Where can you collaborate? This doesn’t have to be in business or work related - it might be in your personal life. May be it means asking for help when in the past you’d try to take on even more and struggle with the load. Who in your life has complementary strengths and skills to you? Have a think and may be ask them if they’d be up for joining forces.
Finally, we have my third discovery:
Now, one of the things that kept me stuck in my lonely loop of doing everything myself was… I was afraid to ask. I was afraid to communicate what I needed to anyone else.
Without this piece, communication, you’re unlikely to get very far with community or collaboration - because no one will know what your dreams are, what you can offer or how you can help each other.
It’s true: good communication does require a level of vulnerability that many of us, introvert or extrovert, do struggle with. It feels like we’re laying down our armour as we prepare for a reply that isn’t what we hoped for.
Of course, no one says this better than Brené Brown:
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they're never weakness.”
And communicating our needs is anything but a weakness. What I’ve discovered time an time again is the pleasant surprise that: people on the whole, really like to help. People really want to connect and they want to collaborate.
When you give someone the opportunity to join forces with you, anything is possible.
More on asking for introverts >>
OK so community, collaboration and communication - my three discoveries which hopefully will be of some help to you, regardless of what your big dreams are.
And as I mentioned, we’ll be showing what comes from these three C’s very soon, at Wildfire Women happening on October 6th, in London.
We’ll have incredible speakers you’re no doubt familiar with: Psychologies editor-in-chief, Suzy Walker, as well as Cate Mackenzie, Mary Fenwick and so, so many more.
Like I said, we make a big effort to cultivate an environment that suits both introverts and extroverts, we’ll make sure you feel welcome and you’ll walk away with real advice and action steps to apply to your own calling.
I've been in two minds trying to decide what fun I could share with you this week - you might have noticed I missed last week's fun update, and that was because I was away in Menorca (a small Balearic island) and had a pretty impossible wifi connection.
So my debate was whether or not I should tell you about my trip to Menorca, or tell you about what I did over the weekend (host a creative meetup).
The creative meetup won out, because Menorca was... well... you don't need to hear about me reading by the pool or my dislike of hot weather - which, if you read my Museletter you are probably very sick of after the summer we had.
So: the meetup!
Now, I feel like I've mentioned meetups in the past - specifically the kind you can find and create on Meetup.com, which is the platform I use. Not affiliated with them, and honestly I'm not a fan of them as a company because their customer service SUCKS, but for someone who is interested in meeting new people and doing new things - it's a pretty great option.
OK so I might have also told you that when I first moved to Brighton from London, I was at a bit of a loss. I realised my introversion had its limits, and my tendency to hermit myself had increased to the point of vitamin D definiciency. I'm kidding - redheads make extra vitamin D so that wasn't a problem.
But I was definitely craving the company of people - even if it was for a few hours a week.
I also wanted to do something creative that didn't involve the laptop... which, if you're anything like me, isn't so easy to motivate yourself to do. I needed accountability.
So yes, I created a meetup group. This was called Creative Cafe, and consisted of a Saturday morning, 11-1pm, in a cafe (or a pub actually) and anyone who came was welcomed, but also left alone if they wanted to work on whatever creative project they wanted.
I actually handed over ownership of the group some months back - I moved further away, to Hove, and ultimately needed a break.
But since my energy has picked up again, I've been craving my weekend morning creativity and social boost, and so... I started another group.
So my new group is called Caffeinated Creatives and just like with Creative Cafe, I've made sure to do things on my terms, and remember that people who want the same will be drawn to it, and people who don't... won't. That's my first tip for meetups: suit yourself, at least at the beginning. There's no point in doing something you're uncomfortable with, because YOU won't want to go!
I also chose a time I'm usually free, and at my creative peak: 10:30 on a Sunday morning. I limited this one to just 1.5 hours, with time afterwards put aside in case anyone wants to book in a quick Q+A session with me and of course people can stay at the cafe for as long as they like.
I'm not trying to pitch this to you because I know most of you aren't anywhere near Brighton, but if you are, I'll stick the link in the shownotes in case you do want to pop down on Sunday.
So the first one went very well: I met some lovely people, writers, artists, even a life coach - and all were super friendly. I chatted a bit, but I also got some mandala drawing done - yes, still my go-to creative outlet, especially if I want to be able to chat and work at the same time. That said, I'm going to accommodate my fellow writers as well, and make sure we've always got a quiet table for quiet work - and any hardcore introverts who want a time out. Which may sometimes be me.
All of this is to try and make the point that I often come back to: balance. We introverts do have a certain quota for alone time to fill, and a certain quota for people time. I truly believe there are only extreme rare cases when someone is a true hermit or does better off in a cave in the mountains... and I know I'm not one of them.
And that isn't easy: because with the rest of us, we need to work out this balance, and honour it. Sometimes that goes a bit wrong and we overdo our solo time or our social time, and need to address that. That's why a meetup like this is so great for me anyway, because I can use it to balance those needs - and get my creative needs met too.
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Jean Smith, social and cultural anthropologist and social intelligence coach.
This podcast is BY FAR the one I’ve most hesitated to publish because… I get coached. I don’t get coached on something you might expect either - not a topic we normally tackle on the podcast, but one I’ve been really hoping to, because it undoubtedly effects pretty much everyone at least if you’re… single.
You can leave a rating and review on iTunes (here's how to do that) and I will be as happy as a lamb frolicking in sunshine (or sob into my pillow, depending on what you write.)
Have you ever been asked what your superpower would be, if you were a superhero? I always struggled to pick between being able to fly and being invisible. Typically introverted answers: picking the two superpowers that would let me escape extroverted situations…
More than being a fun game to play when you’re six, this is a great question to ask yourself throughout life. Your superpowers don’t have to be extraordinary or win you any awards, let alone save the world… they are simply the abilities you have that come easier to you than most, and that energise you more than most.
Individually, they may not strike you as special at all – in fact, until you hear this podcast episode, you might not be aware of them at all – but when you do identify them and start to harness them more, you start to see evidence of your true capabilities.
Introverts tend to be especially critical of themselves, because of our tendency to focus inward so much. Unsurprisingly, treating yourself too critically can easily reduce your self esteem. Low self esteem makes life a lot more challenging. In short: you want to bolster your self esteem, not tear it down.
It does serve us to be critical when it comes to honing our skills; being able to accurately assess where you’re at is one of the core ingredients to getting to where you want to go. But there will be nothing to assess and improve at without first acknowledging what your superpowers are.
Not sure what your Superpowers are yet? That’s OK: here are some ideas to get the ball rolling, based on what we know about the nature of introverts.
This is particularly helpful when it comes to communication with others. It means an introvert doesn’t give too much away and can be more deliberate and diplomatic in their speech.
It also makes us less quick to make judgements – which, when done without much thought, can land an extrovert in hot water.
However, overthinking can lead to unnecessary anxiety. Anxiety about speaking your mind can mean you appear closed off and distant to others and hinder real connection forming, which is vital for trust and forming long-lasting relationships.
What they say has gone through a natural mental filter, which tests how accurate, important and appropriate something is.
This means that a 1-to-1 conversation can be very rich and full of depth, leading to more meaningful friendships.
The downside to this is that it takes a while for our thoughts to mature and develop to a state where we’re ready to let them out into the world. This is definitely a drawback in heated, fast-paced debates.
It also means on the whole we’re averse to small talk - again, not the best at dinner parties or networking events.
You can pay attention to those you are speaking to. Which is great if you’re speaking to one person, but even at a larger scale this can be picked up. For example a lecture in a theatre will often be able to notice if there’s someone paying true attention to them: and this will mean a lot to them.
The problem is for introverts who in turn, also need to focus quite intensely in order to get a good understanding of something. This is particularly true for highly sensitive introverts who struggle to maintain focus in an overstimulating environment.
As a result of our focus, introverts also make for great at paying attention to others, making for great listeners. There is a difference between passive listening: which usually looks like someone who is purely being quiet out of politeness, and is really just waiting for their conversational partner to finish speaking. Active listening however looks like someone who has all there attention focussed on you, and who is getting ready not to just speak their own opinions or to steer the conversation in their own self serving direction, but to dig deeper into the last thing you said.
The downside is introverts can also pay too much attention to what others are thinking about themselves: which can cause stress and anxiety when doing something that exposes you to the public.
Compared to extroverts, who very much rely on the responses and feedback of others, introverts are less concerned with their outside world. This is particularly true for the more left-brain, analytical introverts (usually ISTJs, INTJs, ISTPs, INTPs - check out Marti Olsen Laney for more on left-brain introversion.)
This gives introverts greater ability to be selfless: to create from a place that is not driven by vanity or muddied by the opinions of others.
They have the ability to tune into their communication partners and this is done through intuitive strength rather than using any sleazy influence tactics.
Mirror neurones are a real thing: and both introverts and extroverts have them but could it be that introverts, particularly highly sensitive people, are more able to tune into them?
Empathy is a great skill, whether it comes naturally to you or you learn to develop it. It means people are quicker to trust you and feel less threatened by you.
Now we've talked about the generic introvert superpowers, let’s talk about your unique Superpowers - the ones that set you apart from the next creative introvert. You might have some or even all of the introvert superpowers, this isn’t where your Superpowers end. You have your own unique Superpowers, that distinguish you from the next creative introvert and that will make you the one fit for your life purpose.
Not sure what your unique Superpowers are? That’s understandable. One of the mistakes people make when identifying their Superpowers is that they immediately think of their abilities in areas that society tends to deem the most important. You might think of your academic history… and how difficult you found maths. You might think of sporting achievements… and remember you were always picked last for teams. You might think of your workplace history… and remember how you always got passed by for promotions.
In focussing on the big, obvious (and actually very insignificant) roles society has suggested you play, you end up missing the Superpowers you do have in other areas.
It’s these little moments that bring us joy, boost our energy and feel so easy to us that point to our actual Superpowers.
1) Have a Superpower brainstorm by jotting ideas down from the following questions:
• What are you really good at?
• What comes naturally for you?
• What activities make you feel energised?
• What quality do you bring to an activity?
• What do you get asked for help with by others?
2) Put your Superpowers to use
It’s one thing to have a nice list of things you can keep in your wallet when you need a pick-me-up (which I do recommend) but it’s another to actually put these to use as much as possible in your daily life.
Now you have your list (you can also add the typical introvert Superpowers too if they resonated with you) start to list real life ways you can use these Superpowers.
For example, if one of my Superpowers is being attentive, I know I can bring this to occasions when I meet new people. These aren’t usually the most introvert-friendly events, but if I know I have my Superpower in my back pocket, I have more reassurance that I can use this to my advantage.
Think about how these Superpowers can help you through day-to-day life as well as the more challenging occasions we might face. Try following the sentence structure below to work through each Superpower:
I can use the Superpower of ________ when I _________
Go one step further and think of an event or upcoming project where you can really put your Superpower/s to use. Make a point of using this as your intention in going into that event/project (often a much better way of setting goals than focussing purely on the end result.)
In this week’s episode of the Creative Introvert podcast I talk to Lucy Lucraft, fellow blogger, podcaster, travel lover and Brightonian.
You can leave a rating and review on iTunes (here's how to do that) and I will be as happy as a lamb frolicking in sunshine (or sob into my pillow, depending on what you write.)